Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby will never be confused with a realistic NASCAR movie, but it’s tough to deny that it is without question the most hilarious and entertaining one. A serious NASCAR fan who demands hardcore racing action may not be able to fully appreciate this film, but as long as you don’t take it too seriously, Talladega Nights is a home run.
Will Ferrell stars in the movie as hot-shot driver Ricky Bobby. Ricky is extremely successful and lives by the motto “if you ain’t first, you’re last.” Ricky’s buddy Cal Naughton Jr. (played by John C. Reilly) always puts Ricky before himself, often pushing him to victory. After a fiery crash, Ricky goes insane and struggles to “go fast” anymore. Since he can’t race, Ricky’s wife leaves him for his friend Cal. This leads to Ricky’s deadbeat dad teaching him how to race again.
While this is going on, Ricky is in the middle of a heated feud with Jean Girard (played by Sacha Baron Cohen), a former Formula One driver who made the jump to NASCAR. The movie’s climax comes when Ricky enters the Talladega 500. On the final lap, after every other car in the race had been incapacitated, Ricky and Jean crash. They then race on foot to the finish line. This, of course, doesn’t count, and both drivers are disqualified for leaving their cars. Cal is declared the winner based on a technicality. This leads to Ricky realizing he took Cal for granted.